Background: It is unknown whether habitual intake of dietary flavonoids, known for their antioxidative and anti-inflammatory properties, affects longitudinal change in lung function.
Objective: We investigated whether different flavonoid subclasses present in the habitual diet were associated with beneficial changes in lung function over time in the elderly.
Design: This longitudinal analysis included 839 participants from the VA (Veterans Affairs) Normative Aging Study whose lung function [forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV1) and forced vital capacity (FVC)] was measured at 2 and up to 5 visits between 1992 and 2008 (n = 2623 measurements). Yearly average intake of major flavonoid subclasses (anthocyanins, flavanones, flavan-3-ols, flavonols, flavones, and polymers) was calculated from food-frequency questionnaires at each visit. We estimated adjusted differences in annual change in lung function associated with each flavonoid subclass, categorized into quartiles, in linear mixed-effects regression models after adjustment for lifestyle and dietary confounders.
Results: Strong inverse associations were found between anthocyanin intake and age-related decline in lung function. Independent of dietary and nondietary risk factors, slower rates of FEV1 and FVC decline by 23.6 (95% CI: 16.6, 30.7) and 37.3 (95% CI: 27.8, 46.8) mL/y, respectively, were observed in participants in the fourth quartile of intake compared with participants in the first quartile (P-trend < 0.0001). The protective associations observed for anthocyanin intake were present in both current/former and never smokers. Compared with no or very low intakes, an intake of ≥2 servings of anthocyanin-rich blueberries/wk was associated with slower decline in FEV1 and FVC by 22.5 (95% CI: 10.8, 34.2) and 37.9 (95% CI: 22.1, 53.7) mL/y, respectively. To a lesser extent, higher flavan-3-ol intake was also associated with slower lung function decline.
Conclusions: An attenuation of age-related lung function decline was associated with higher dietary anthocyanin intake in this longitudinal sample of predominantly elderly men. Further prospective studies are needed to confirm these novel associations.
Keywords: anthocyanins; clinical epidemiology; diet; flavonoids; lung function tests.